Stepping into the executive director role at the Boys and Girls Club of Bend three months ago, Amanda Gow was prepared. Bend native, check. Ten years experience working with young people facing adversity, check. A stellar degree from the University of Oregon in international business and finance, check.
And, perhaps the icing on her skillset cake, "I would have been a perfect club kid," Gow states, "I was raised by an amazing, single dad. He was a huge support and worked hard to make sure my life could be better.
From two locations, the BGCB serves the entire—and rapidly expanding—Bend La-Pine School District. Programming for youth focuses on three key pillars: academic success, character and citizenship and healthy lifestyles. For the 1,200 members enrolled in 2016, this included keeping members on track to graduate from high school, learning to stay fit for life, community service and career preparedness.
Calling her work a dream come true, Gow believes in BGCB's mission to inspire and enable all young people—especially those most in need—to reach their fullest potential as productive, caring and responsible citizens. Gow says, "Kids will rise to the bar set for them."
Fundraising, grant writing, community relations, programming, child safety, HR, finances (the constant worry), staff support, family support and random building questions are noted by Gow as part and parcel of the job.
When asked what a day in her life looks like, she says, "Crazy. Every day is new and different and I have to try and balance the time I have carefully. For the most part I work on ensuring stable funding. We are 85 percent donor funded and 75 percent of kids are on full scholarship. Sadly, prevention programs aren't highly funded at the state and federal level so it is up to me and this community to keep this place open and growing."
And her favorite part of the job? Obviously—the kids. "They make every day worth it. Being able to hear their stories about what the club means to them makes my heart full every day."
Gow's top priority is supporting her team, "I think good leaders listen, make the tough decisions and support those around them. I can't be a great leader without great staff."
In addition to her nine-to-five, Gow moonlights as a consultant with the Guardian Group, a "team of teams," comprised of former special operations military, law enforcement and intelligence community professionals, working to end sex trafficking in the United States. Gow's team includes organizations like the United States Department of State, Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice.
From a community perspective, Gow is fearlessly devoted to and sees her job with BGCB and the Guardian Group operating in tandem. "My life is dedicated to the kids in this community and ensuring their safety... I have seen firsthand the damage of the human trafficking slave trade and I know for the rest of my life I will dedicate energy into fighting human trafficking in any way that I can. Being brave is standing up everyday to what scares me, knowing that I do the work I do for the kids and for the community."
Female community members are a huge source of strength and inspiration in Gow's efforts toward the well-being of Bend's youth. She gives shout-outs to, "Mel Parker, Laura Handy, Kim Gammond, Linda English and Jennie Davis. All of these women are passionate, intelligent and driven. I think women leaders need to support one another and learn from each other at all levels, from friends to co-workers."
In a vision for the future of Bend, Gow wants youth to feel safe, heard, have a place to go for support and live up to their potential. "I want them to find their spark, their passion and run with it. I want to help them grow into good citizens and leaders," she says.
Just three months into the new job and Gow can add so much more to her executive director checklist.
Boys & Girls Club of Bend